Cubs

Joe Maddon won’t connect all the ‘negative dots’ around Cubs

Joe Maddon won’t connect all the ‘negative dots’ around Cubs

The Cubs have used the Cincinnati Reds as a punching bag this season, beating up on the kind of rebuilding team they used to roll out at Wrigley Field. This was supposed to be a chance to pad the record, pile up stats and take out some frustrations. Both Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter and Kris Bryant’s three-homer, 5-for-5 laser show happened at Great American Ball Park.

But even seeing the Reds on the North Side – and the national exposure from seven Cubs earning All-Star selections – didn’t distract from some of the deeper issues for this World Series-or-bust team.

“Everybody goes through these trials,” manager Joe Maddon said after Wednesday afternoon’s 5-3 loss. “I can’t connect a bunch of negative dots.”

The Cubs have now lost four of their last five series, and five of their last seven, looking like a team that needs an All-Star break, if not some reinforcements by the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

The Cubs didn’t need to use their sixth starter until July 6, a remarkable run of pitching health that begins to explain their 100-win pace but probably won’t last. That’s why Adam Warren – the swingman acquired from the New York Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade – returned from a tune-up at Triple-A Iowa to face a Reds lineup that still has Joey Votto and some interesting hitters.

Warren is an in-case-of-emergency option at a time when Arrieta is still trying to rediscover his Cy Young Award feel, Jon Lester is coming off perhaps the worst start of his career, Jason Hammel might be beginning another second-half fade and John Lackey is in the middle of his age-37 season. 

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“Everybody’s talking about the offensive run differential,” Maddon said. “But it’s all about starting pitching. Period. 

“We’ve run into a little bit of a rough patch. That’s going to happen. But if you look around baseball right now, I’m seeing a lot of double-digit to one, double-digit to two wins. Pitchers get tired, man, regardless of their (willingness) to concede to that point or not, which they never will. That’s why you have to be kind of proactive regarding doing things like we’re doing right now involving a sixth starter.

“Protect these guys like the family jewels, man, because starting pitching, you’re not going to go out there and shake a tree and find them. They’re not going to be there.” 

Warren limited the Reds to one run across five innings – a Zack Cozart homer leading off the game at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat. Warren threw 93 pitches in this spot start, allowing only two more hits and giving up zero walks after an up-and-down performance as a reliever (4.56 ERA).

But that won’t do much for a bullpen where Justin Grimm has a 5.59 ERA, there are no lefty options besides Travis Wood and Joel Peralta just got designated for assignment after a four-inning audition. This time, it was Trevor Cahill giving up the go-ahead, three-run homer to Tucker Barnhart in the seventh inning.

“It’s more likely a snapshot,” Maddon said, “just based on people in and out of the lineup right now. The bullpen isn’t 100 percent. We’re experimenting with different things.

“The big part is we need to do better in the latter part of the game scoring runs, too. If it’s close, or we get behind, or even if it’s tied, we’re just not doing a really good job of finishing off games offensively.”

That relentless lineup everyone talked about in April is 1-30 when trailing entering the ninth inning. Miguel Montero got charged with four more stolen bases, meaning the veteran catcher has gone 3-for-42 in throwing out runners this season.

With David Ross on the seven-day concussion disabled list, Lester will have to throw to rookie Willson Contreras instead of his personal catcher this weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. And Maddon was saying it’s doubtful Dexter Fowler (hamstring injury) will return before the All-Star break, leaving it unclear when the leadoff guy will go on a rehab assignment and if he can play in next week’s All-Star Game.

“I really can’t explain it right now,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But we’re still going to try and go out there and get the job done. Obviously, the past few weeks, it hasn’t been working. But we still have high hope and high faith. We just got to go to the next day and get better.” 

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...